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Veggie6 Mar 25th, 2008 06:13 AM

Great Barrier Reef Recommendations
I know this is a loaded question, but what's the best mainland city to use to see the Great Barrier Reef? I've been looking into Airlie Beach, but everyone I know goes to Cairns instead. I'm aware that I'll be there during stinger season, but swimming offshore isn't really important. It's all about the reef for me. I'm open to any ideas. Just want to make the most of my time there. Thanks in advance for your help!

ALF Mar 25th, 2008 09:47 AM

As you go farther south, the GBR angles further offshore, so it is a long boat ride from Airlie Beach. From Cairns, it is about half the distance, which cuts the boat ride down significantly. Also, as you go further north, the reef life improves. From Airlie Beach, there are only a few operators to take you out, while in Cairns there are too many to count. You might also want to consider Port Douglas, which is a little north of Cairns, and also has a bunch of operators.

Ceidleh Mar 25th, 2008 11:12 AM

Port Douglas is an easy connection from the Cairns airport (about 1 hour) whether you have your own car or catch a shuttle van.

Reef life pretty good as you're further north of Cairns. Check out the Low Isles, too. You can go in water to snorkel during stinger season provided you are suited up properly. You can also swim in netted off areas, but remember that while the nets keep out the larger box jellyfish, they don't keep out the smaller jellyfish species.

Port Douglas is also a great area to be in if you want to make side trips up to the Daintree, Cape Tribulation or Atherton Tablelands - all are excellent areas to explore once you tire of the Reef.

SnRSeattle Mar 25th, 2008 05:52 PM

If you are indeed "all about the reef" then I suggest you take a liveaboard trip. The snorkeling (and diving if you dive) are FANTASTIC and far better than day trips we have taken. We went with Spirit of Freedom out of Cairns. We also went to stay aboard the pontoon with Fantasea out of Airlie Beach. It was a wonderful experience, but the snorkeling was not half as good as on Spirit of Freedom.
Sally in Seattle

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